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Opinion

The Star Says

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Saving our savings from the scammers

IT often starts the same way. A person calls, claiming to be a police personnel, Bank Negara official and even a commercial bank officer.

The one receiving that call has been identified as being “involved” in a crime or facing problems with his or her bank accounts.

They are then required to transfer a certain sum of money to a specific bank account.

Before they know what hit them, the victims would have banked in their money. And it’s gone – in this wide-ranging scam dubbed as Macau scam.

Sometimes victims are informed that they have won a prize in a lucky draw competition but have to pay a certain amount of tax before they can claim it.

Or that someone has been kidnapped and they have to pay a ransom.

There is no such kidnapping but they prey on the emotions of the victims who do not stop to think.

In all such instances, the phone numbers used are mimicked and cloned numbers of actual entities such as Bukit Aman and Bank Negara, using the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).

These people prey on the victims’ desperation, sense of panic – and greed. Millions of ringgit have been lost as victims followed the instructions given by the scammers.

Countless police reports have been lodged and many such scams have been highlighted in the media but the number of victims keeps on growing.

It’s quite astonishing that people can be so gullible.

More often than not, the scam ends when the victims transfer their savings to a bank account operated by the scammers.

Recently, things have got worse. The syndicates are even resorting to abducting people and forcing them to work as their callers.

Several Malaysians were found to have been forced to work for a Macau scam syndicate in Bangkok.

Six young Malaysians were forced to bilk money for the syndicate, targeting Malaysians. They were lured to Bangkok, Thailand with job offers but were then turned into forced labour.

With the people remaining gullible, the syndicates are becoming bolder. The Royal Malaysia Police have always taken action against such syndicates, masterminded by those from Taiwan and China, but they keep rising in new forms.

This year, 50 people were arrested in Penang in July – by far the largest bust on Macau scam syndicates. They had duped more than 80 victims and reaped close to RM3mil.

Our law enforcement agencies can keep cracking down on these scammers but the people have to play a part too.

We can start by acquiring knowledge on such scams.

Excuses including that such information is hard to come by is not acceptable. Main- stream media outlets as well as their online counterparts have continuously highlighted case after case of Macau scams.

For one thing, PDRM and Bank Negara do not usually conduct an entire investigation over the phone, or ask you to transfer money to them. Anything like that can be done at the station or at Bank Negara offices.

There is no reason to blindly follow instructions given by an unknown caller, especially when you have done no wrong.

Senior Bukit Aman officer Senior Asst Comm Datuk Asmawati Ahmad has also reminded the public to verify the authenticity of calls claiming to be from the police or any financial institutions by calling the real phone numbers of Bank Negara and the police, not the numbers given by the scammers.

The time for ignorance or the “tidak apa” attitude must end. As members of the public, we have to heed the warnings and remain vigilant.

It is our savings that we are protecting.